Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Rush of Blood

5 stars from me!

Rush of Blood is a welcome departure from the standard crime thriller format.

It still contains a crime and has an over riding theme of ‘whodunnit’ but it incorporates a story line that has more basis in the analysis of personalities, traits, emotions and relationships.

From the very first few pages you are drawn into the lives of three couples and their differing idiosyncrasies; do you like any of them, dislike them, empathise with them, believe them? All this remains to be seen and as more is revealed about each character and each couple, be prepared to change your mind!

In reality, a sad tale about a mother’s grief runs through this book but the star of the show is without doubt the quest to find the killer.

I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable book and I constantly changed my mind on who I thought was the killer. Great stuff.

Synopsis: Perfect strangers.  A perfect holiday.  The perfect murder… 

Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves.

When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices…

Then, a second girl goes missing.

Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine? 

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First Christmas (HBTC) by Debbie McGowan

First Christmas4 out of 5

First Christmas (from the Hiding Behind The Couch series), is the second book I’ve read by Debbie McGowan and once again I found myself absolutely blown away by the simplistic charm of the whole tale.

The two main characters are as cute as can be, yet with very real characteristics and very real flaws and emotional defects. Debbie McGowan seems to have a real knack of weaving a sweet tale and then peppering it with hardcore facts and events before popping a ribbon on the top to soften the blow.

Tiny point, much like with Beginnings, I do have to confess that I feel the cover could be improved!

Synopsis: Remember the way you used to feel when you were little? So eager for Santa’s visit, that mixture of anticipation and impatience? Will I get what I asked for? Have I been good enough? This Christmas, join some of the characters from Hiding Behind The Couch for a short story full of festive magic and romance. Best read in December, in front of a roaring log fire, by the twinkling light of a Christmas tree.

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

Never Look AwaySynopsis: It starts with a trip to a local amusement park. David Harwood is hoping a carefree day will help dispel his wife Jan’s recent depression that has led to frightening thoughts of suicide. Instead, a day of fun with their son Ethan turns into a nightmare.

When Jan disappears from the park, David’s worst fears seem to have come true. But when he goes to the police to report her missing, the facts start to indicate something very different. The park’s records show that only two tickets were purchased, and CCTV shows no evidence that Jan ever entered the park at all. Suddenly David’s story starts to look suspicious – and the police to wonder if Jan’s already dead, murdered by her husband.

To prove his innocence and keep his son from being taken away from him, David is going to have to dig deep into the past and come face to face with a terrible childhood tragedy – but by doing that he could risk destroying everything precious to him…

An easy 5 Stars from me! 

This book is brilliant! Linwood Barclay true to form, an absolute page turning, roller coaster (sorry, bad pun) of a read: go buy it!

I’m tempted to leave the review there actually… kinda sums it all up!

I think my favourite Linwood Barclay novel is still Never Saw It Coming (I loved that book), but Never Look Away is coming in as a close second. They are completely different storylines, with a completely different feeling to the book but each has that same mounting sense of tension and that same ‘unputdownable’ quality.

I adore the characters that Linwood (I even love his name; excuse the gushing, I’m not usually a gusher) creates. The female cop in Never Saw It Coming is just inspired, she is a fabulous character. I often read books failing to find any connection or empathy with the main protagonist, let alone the side characters but each and every one of Linwood’s burst to life in my mind and become fully fledging living and breathing people with whom you cannot help but form a relationship.

David and Jan are a real, believable couple. His parents are real, Jan’s ‘parents’ are real. Each person and their relationships to others is so well crafted and yet within so few words. It is an incredible skill and I take my hat off to Linwood Barclay for being able to create such deep and wonderful situations for me to enjoy. Ok so maybe they aren’t just for me but you get the idea.

All in all a very enjoyable read with several subplots alongside the main story, highly recommended.

 

Sealed With A Kiss by Rachel Lucas

Sealed With A Kiss

Synopsis: Kate breathes a sigh of relief when she’s dumped at her best friend’s wedding. Faced with moving back home, she takes a job with a cottage on the remote island of Auchenmor. Kate’s told Auchenmor is too small for secrets, but prickly new boss Roderick is keeping something to himself. When his ex-girlfriend comes back on the scene, their budding friendship comes to an abrupt end-and Kate finds out Fiona’s got a sinister motive for coming back to the island she hates. Can she be stopped before it’s too late, and will the island find its way into Kate’s heart?

4 stars from me

Such a lovely book! I read this on holiday in two leisurely sittings beside the pool; it is most definitely the perfect way to while a way a day, or two.

If you take a mosey through the other reviews on this blog you’ll see that chic lit (contemporary women’s fiction) isn’t my usual first choice of reading matter but I absolutely loved this simple, sweet, heart warming tale.

I remember reading once that you should never ever submit a novel to a publisher that starts with a break up but that clearly didn’t cause any problems for Rachel Lucas and although the book would have worked just as well without it, frankly it added to the whole sweetness of the tale.

Sealed With A Kiss was exactly what I’d hoped it would be, yes it was a little bit corny, a little bit predictable but that’s what made it so sweet and enjoyable! In addition to that it was incredibly easy read with beautiful scene setting and cleverly constructed characters.

As well as being a light, soul soothing read, this book also made me want to visit Scotland again (as well as chuck everything in and go and stay in a deserted cottage on a remote island! Oh, and drink whisky.). The beauty of the landscapes really came to life on the pages and even the cold and the rain sounded romantic.

A big thumbs up from me for Sealed With A Kiss for Rachel Lucas who can be found on twitter @Karamina where she is just as lovely as you would assume from reading this gorgeous book.

 

 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison

Silent WifeSynopsis: Having nothing left to lose changes everything.

Todd and Jodie have been together for more than twenty years. They are both aware their world is in crisis, though neither is willing to admit it.

Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodie is living in denial. But she also likes to settle scores. When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows everything is at stake. It’s only now she will discover just how much she’s truly capable of…

3.5 out of 5 stars from me

I really enjoyed The Silent Wife but I have to say the hype whipped up on the cover with quotes like “Deeply unsettling… devastating” and “dark as hell and totally engrossing” are a bit of a misrepresentation.

I actually found it to be quite a light read, almost gentle in its portrayal of some quite gruesome facts. I chose to overlook the hype and judge it purely on the books itself with no preconceptions. If I had been appraising it based upon the quotes and the hype I could only have gone with a 2 as it just isn’t as it has been described.

However, basing it purely upon itself, I thought it was a great story and I did find it hard to put down at times. I must confess though, there were several sections that I merely skim read as they were of no interest to me as a reader and most certainly detracted from my enjoyment of the story. By this I mean the sections that refer to Jodi’s relationship with her brothers, which in the actually contributed nothing to the story as it was all just hints and suggestions. There were other sections which just over explained stuff that again I found myself skim reading. I think the book would benefit greatly from having them either shortened or removed.

The Silent Wife is definitely a psychological thriller and it certainly made me think about Jodi’s reactions to things and made me reflect upon how I might react if faced with the same situation. I didn’t find it ‘dark as hell’ but who knows maybe I’ve read so many of these things now that I’m desensitised!

Personally, I would definitely recommend this book to friends who enjoy an emotional thriller and despite the subject matter I would even be inclined to recommend it as a light holiday read.

 

The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings

Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 19.06.03

Synopsis: Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper.

At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving.

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will’s painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband’s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal and revenge…

 A happy 5 stars from me!

Having read and loved Sworn Secret, I was very excited to hear that Amanda Jennings had been busily scribbling away at a new novel and that The Judas Scar was available for review.

In anticipation of greatness, I settled myself down with a cup of coffee and a pile of cushions and began to read. Soon after I felt moved to tweet Amanda:

Tweet Amanda

Moving aside from the story for a moment, Amanda is lovely on twitter, she always replies to tweets and seems to warmly engage with everyone. I think it’s this genuine liking of people that makes her able to create such ‘real’ characters within her pages.

Anyway, back to The Judas Scar. So, as you can see, on the 4th of June 2014 I was unimpressed with Harmony! I won’t tell you why but I will tell you that I felt so connected to Harmony by this point that I genuinely felt unimpressed with her, I felt disappointed in her and frustrated with her decision making and lack of forethought. How amazing that a few words on a page can give rise to feelings and emotions about a fictitious character!

By page 121 this book had already made me cry. I almost never cry at books! In fact I think that prior to this one,  Sworn Secret was the last book that moved me to tears.

The Judas Scar is an absolute page turner, the first time I had to put it down I literally felt like I was tearing myself away from it. As the story unfolded I felt a strange feeling of foreboding as I guessed which direction the tale was going to take, almost like watching an accident in slow motion yet being unable to stop it or make yourself look away.

The characters did things I didn’t like, stupid things, irrational things, things that we fallible humans do all the time in real life and which made this book oh so believable and oh so hard to put down.

As well as vast depth of emotion and excellent, realistic characters, The Judas Scar’s storyline is intricately woven and intriguing to follow. Personally I had a sense of how it was going to end (although I was only partially right), although there were several unexpected twists and events along the way that I didn’t see coming.

Friendships aren’t perfect, relationships aren’t set in stone and life just doesn’t always go the way it should. In real life people are left to sweep these things under the carpet, ignore the elephant in the room and pretend everything is fine. In The Judas Scar we (as the reader) knew about their indiscretions, their lies and imperfections were exposed and raw for all to see and it made for an emotional journey with an almost voyeuristic viewpoint into the lives of the central characters.

I don’t want to reveal any of the story, I simply want to give this book my heartfelt recommendation – go and read it, you won’t be disappointed! Then you can go and read Sworn Secret too; as stand alone books they can be read independently of each other.

 

 

Honour by Elif Shafak

Honour

3 Stars from me.

I did enjoy this book but felt it just went on a bit!

The scene setting is excellent, life in Turkey seems real and total credible. Steeped in traditions and age old beliefs and rituals, you read and believe the lives of the people that the story follows.

However, I didn’t find the whole thing ‘gripping’ (although maybe it wasn’t meant to be), I didn’t entirely connect with any character in particular and found the whole thing with the twins just a bit naff in the end. I felt the ‘twist’ cheapened the story in a way.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a well written book and the message and conveyance of the lives within it is emotional and fascinating in parts, it just wasn’t for me.

The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

5 Stars from me!

Shock of the Fall

The Shock Of The Fall is a gentle yet deeply moving story told through the eyes of MatthewHomes as he grows up and battles a mental illness alongside grief and guilt following the death of his brother, Simon.

I really enjoyed this completely different narrative style; the places where the typeface is different all add to the atmosphere of the book. Things like that can often be twee and unnecessary but I felt it added to the overall enjoyment of the book in this case. STOP READING OVER MY SHOULDER for example gave me a wry smile.

This is a mostly sad book which has touches of humour and small uplifting sections. I thought the glimpse into the life of an adult living with a serious mental disorder was fascinating, a real caution not to judge the person next to you on the bus or in front of you in a queue – you never know what someone is living with inside.

I can see why The Shock Of The Fall has been so highly rated and has won so many reviews, it’s literary style and bravery of subject are refreshing, clever, interesting to read and make for a great story.

I can’t help wondering whether the illness the size and sound of a snake would always have reared it’s ugly head or whether it was entirely caused by Simon’s death, or even coaxed into life by his mum’s ill-timed attentions?

The Cruellest Game by Hilary Bonner

The Cruellest Game

I’d give this 4.5 stars!

I’m never sure how complimentary it is to either author when a books says ‘If you like Sophie Hannah you’ll love this’ but I guess I get the point of it although personally it didn’t make me buy this book, I bought it because I thought it looked good.

Anyway. 4.5 stars from me – would’ve given it 5 except that I guessed whodunit!

This is one of those books that just gets under your skin and into your mind. It is an emotional read, one where you sit and ask yourself ‘how on earth would I cope with that?’.

The main character, Marion, is one hell of a strong woman, I’m pretty sure I’d have caved in given a mere fraction of what she endures. All the characters and their relationships are engaging and well woven throughout the book. The front cover takes on a new poignancy once you’ve read the book 😦

I asked Hilary on twitter what her first book was and if they need to be read in order, she replied:

Twitter convo

And yes, I am embarrassed that there was a typo in my tweet to her!

I can see why the comparison to Sophie Hannah was made as this story had that same insidious, paranoid feeling to it that some of hers have. It made me analyse every character within the book and their motivation for every action. Her relationship with her husband was interesting to say the least!

Overall a really great book that made me think. Would’ve got the full 5 stars if I hadn’t have guessed ‘whodunit’ and how.

To buy a copy of The Cruellest Game click here.

Synopsis: Marion Anderson lives the perfect life.
She has a beautiful home, a handsome and loving husband, and an intelligent and caring son.
But as easily as perfect lives are built, they can also be demolished. When tragedy strikes at the heart of her family, Marion finds herself in the middle of a nightmare, with no sign of waking-up.
The life she treasured is disintegrating before her very eyes, but it’s just the beginning of something much worse and altogether more deadly…

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The NamesakeSynopsis: ‘The Namesake’ is the story of a boy brought up Indian in America.

‘When her grandmother learned of Ashima’s pregnancy, she was particularly thrilled at the prospect of naming the family’s first sahib. And so Ashima and Ashoke have agreed to put off the decision of what to name the baby until a letter comes…’

For now, the label on his hospital cot reads simply BABY BOY GANGULI. But as time passes and still no letter arrives from India, American bureaucracy takes over and demands that ‘baby boy Ganguli’ be given a name. In a panic, his father decides to nickname him ‘Gogol’ – after his favourite writer.

Brought up as an Indian in suburban America, Gogol Ganguli soon finds himself itching to cast off his awkward name, just as he longs to leave behind the inherited values of his Bengali parents. And so he sets off on his own path through life, a path strewn with conflicting loyalties, love and loss…

Spanning three decades and crossing continents, Jhumpa Lahiri’s much-anticipated first novel is a triumph of humane story-telling. Elegant, subtle and moving, ‘The Namesake’ is for everyone who loved the clarity, sympathy and grace of Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut story collection, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’.

The Namesake gets 5 Stars From Me

Oh what a beautiful book! Such a delicately written tale of a life I can barely imagine yet now feel almost intimately knowledgeable about.

I absolutely enjoyed every page of this book, Gogol is such a universal character – male and female readers will, I’m sure, find a kinship with him. His journey throughout this book is eloquently portrayed and utterly believable. His internal struggles to accept his parents, his partners and himself are all too familiar and I found myself empathising again and again with whatever situation he found himself in.

Overall this is a fascinating insight into the lives of another culture and the clash between nostalgia, family rituals, history and modern times. It is clever without being preachy and enticing without being lewd or gratuitous. A work of art.

I felt so sad when the book ended. Not tearful just sad. I can’t even really explain why, I think the story was just so delicately told and so beautifully captivating that it’s ending could only ever cause sadness. How wonderful to be so moved by the pages of a book.

I can’t wait to read something else by Jhumpa Lahiri, although I might leave it a few weeks so that my clearly fragile self can be ready for the next onslaught to my emotions!

To buy The Namesake click here.